It’s show time…

In an industry where financial pressures force companies to closely scrutinise every marketing dollar they spend, large-scale IT trade shows have taken something of a battering in recent years.

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By  Andrew Seymour Published  September 6, 2007

In an industry where financial pressures force companies to closely scrutinise every marketing dollar they spend, large-scale IT trade shows have taken something of a battering in recent years. But as you will see over the next seven days, it's an epidemic that stands little chance of spreading in the Middle East.

This week's 27th installment of Gitex will again put the Middle East IT sector under the spotlight and unequivocally emphasise the increasing role that the region has to play in the global technology landscape. Companies from all four corners of the world, and encompassing a broad spectrum of products and services, will be in attendance with the sole purpose of furthering their position in one of the few parts of the globe still basking in double-digit market growth.

There is no doubt in my mind that Gitex remains the most crucial date in the regional channel calendar. Whether it's vendors looking for partners, partners looking for vendors, the launch of new products or companies merely taking the opportunity to polish their brand, Gitex still acts as the primary platform to relay those messages to an audience that matters.

A preference for much smaller, intimate events clearly exists among some vendors these days, but that takes nothing away from the enduring importance of Gitex as a forum to build and nurture relationships with partners. I'd refer anyone who disagrees to the volume of e-mails that have piled up in my inbox over the past few days. Make no mistake about it, there will be a whole raft of announcements during the course of this week that illustrates the continued development and changing dynamics of the Middle East IT channel.

Furthermore, many hundreds of global executives and VPs are scheduled to jet into Dubai this week. Though the appeal of some sunshine and an hour or two by the hotel pool is clearly a tasty prospect, the obligation on companies to wheel out the big guns demonstrates the strategic importance of the Middle East to so many companies.

It's not just the heavyweight vendors we need to consider though. Gitex serves as a vital tool for many smaller local and international companies that are looking to make their voice heard in the market. Without such an exhibition, these companies would be a lot worse off. The reformatting of this year's Gitex into separate business solutions, consumer electronics and Gulfcomms trade areas will also ensure the show is able to accommodate the interests of both consumer-focused and b-to-b parties. Unfortunately, other leading ICT exhibitions around the globe have not been successful in pulling off such a balancing act over the years.

And then of course there is the whole sales factor. The days of thrashing out multi-million dollar contracts at the back of a stand may be over, but Gitex still serves as a place of dialogue. And in this business, dialogue leads to deals. One aspect of the show where sales mean everything is Gitex Shopper. Months of preparation boils down to seven days of hard selling as vendors and retailers endeavour to move as much product as they can. One reputed retailer recently told me that it distributes vitamins to its staff every morning during the show in a bid to ensure workers aren't left flagging come day three or four. Clearly every little detail needs attention when it comes to the cut and thrust environment of the retail floor.

At the end of the day, Gitex epitomises what the very essence of the channel is about. Regional fortunes and aspirations are built on the partnerships, relationships and communications that are made during the show, which is why the next week carries so much significance.

Speaking of relationships, our definitive guide to the ‘Middle East Channel Champions You Need To Know' is returning for the second year running in the September issue of Channel Middle East.

Gitex is a time for establishing new contacts and alliances, and the 25 executives who have made our rankings are all individuals with an influential role to play in the direction of the regional IT channel. What's more, executives belonging to a vendor in this year's top-25 only qualify for inclusion if they have the words ‘channel' or ‘partner' in their job title, ensuring the list contains those individuals who are truly serving the interests of the channel on a daily basis. Make sure you grab a copy of Channel Middle East - available during Gitex - to discover the identities of the Channel Champions you need to be talking to!

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